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Extensis PhotoGraphics 1.0

"Curve Your Text!"

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Type of Product
PhotoGraphics 1.0, from Extensis Corporation, is a new plug-in that puts your favorite illustration tools directly inside Adobe Photoshop by providing a full featured set of drawing tools and advanced text capabilities. With PhotoGraphics you can easily create basic vector shapesSkier that can be filled and stroked, as well as text on a path. Text and graphics created in PhotoGraphics can be edited at any time--even after they have been rasterized in the Photoshop image. Price: $149.95. The program comes in a Windows and a Macintosh version. Extensis has a variety of products: PhotoTools, PhotoFrame, Intellihance,VectorTools, QX-Effects; QX-Tools, PageTools, Preflight Pro, Preflight Designer, BeyondPress, and Portfolio. For information on their products, see our other reviews of Extensis software. We used Extensis PhotoGraphics and Adobe Photoshop for the section headings for this review. Extensis has an excellent Web site were you can get information, examples, and tips on their products:
User Level
Advanced Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced users. This is a great tool for anyone using Photoshop. I would recommend users to have a basic grasp of Photoshop, but it is an easy way for novices to learn to work with drawing tools.
  • Drawing Tools--Create a full range of editable vector shapes that can be filled and Polygonstroked with a full featured set of drawing tools including line, pen, rectangle, ellipse, polygon and starburst.
  • Advanced Text Formatting and Layout--Create multiple text blocks on any path with complete independent control of placement and formatting of each block on the path.
  • Object Level Opacity--Allows you to set the opacity of each object independently.
  • Object Level Anti-Aliasing--Allows you to set the level of anti-aliasing for each object from a sliding quality scale.
  • Advanced Editability--Multiple illustrations can be saved with the Photoshop document, allowing them to be exchanged among users, reopened and re-edited at any time even after they have been rasterized.
  • Layers--Availability of text and graphic layers right inside the PhotoGraphics plug-in.

Interface: The interface is intuitive and has that familiar Photoshop look, feel, keyboard shortcuts, and functionality. The program can be opened directly from the Extensis menu that gets added to the Photoshop Menu bar. The interface was designed to increase productivity and has a no-noInterfacensense work environment that maximizes space for previews and controls. It is very tight and has a minimalist look. All the controls are organized into a Tools palette and four other dockable palettes: Text, Options, Colors and Layers. There are multiple undo/redo options. All active layers can be viewed, making it much easier to incorporate the effect you are creating into the composite image. You can save any PhotoGraphic drawing with the actual Photoshop document you are working on, or save them out to disk as an external file. There is a handy eyedropper to choose exactly the color you want for your effects.

Tools Palette: The program provides the user with several drawing tools for creating vector objects and shaBezier Toolpes such as rectangles, ellipses, Bezier paths, polygons and starbursts. TRectangleshe inclusion of a starburst tool is handy. All of PhotoGraphics tools can be selected from the Tools palette. And just like in Photoshop, you can select each tool by pressing a single letter on the keyboard. All of the samples created with the program's tools remain vector objects while working in the plug-in, meaning they maintain all of the benefits of a vector program while living in a raster, or pixel, world. They can be reshaped, repositioned, copied, duplicated, grouped, scaled, rotated, etc. More importantly, each object can be filled and stroked according to your needs.

Text Palette: In addition to the "extreme editability" (the fact that text created with PhotoGraphics is editable even after it has been rasterized), PhotoGraphics provides you with many formatting options not available in Photoshop including multiple text blocks, character style sheetsCharacter Styles, individual character color, super-and subscript, all caps, small caps, full justification, and horizontal and vertical scaling. All formatting options, including baseline shift, kerning, tracking, and leading can be set using standard keyboard shortcuts or you can make all formatting choices directly from the Text palette. And it is easy. You just click with the Text tool and start typing exactly where you want the type to be and create as many text blocks as needed for your project.

Options Palette: The program bridges the gap between vector and raster programs, providing your favorite vector drawing tools inside a pixel based image editor. Two unique features in particular demonstrate this ingenuity:

  1. Object Level Opacity--you can set the opacity level of each object separatelyOpacity. It's as simple as selecting the object or objects, and adjusting the opacity slider in the Options palette to the desired opacity. You can create unique designs with object level opacity. I created the images to the right by duplicating the objects, offsetting them, and then changing the opacity for each object.

  2. Object Level Anti-aliasing--it smoothes the jagged edges of a selected object by softening tOptions Palettehe color transition between the edge and background pixels. In certain design projects, such as creating Web graphics or multimedia interface elements, you neeAnti-aliasingd to be able to control the amount of anti-aliasing of objects, and in particular, of small point sized text to help make it more readable on screen. With PhotoGraphics you have four levels of anti-aliasing, which really is helpful in creating professional looking text and smooth edges. You can set the level of anti-aliasing for each object from the Anti-aliasing slider in the Options palette. Because anti-aliasing is an object level attribute, you can change an object's anti-aliasing at any time. The four triangle icons indicate the amount of anti-aliasing.

Colors Palette: It is easy to apply colors to text and to the stroke and fill of objects in the progSwatch ViewraList Viewm. You can name your colors and organize them any way you wish. You can import your existing Photoshop color swatches into PhotoGraphics. Colors created in PhotoGraphics can also be exported so that they can be shared with anyone else in your workgroup. There are two ways to view your colors in the Colors palette. The Swatch View allows you to rearrange the colors in the palette. The List View displays your colors in an alphabetical list. There is also an integrated Web Safe Color Picker which displays Web colors in their RGB and hexadecimal values.

Layers Palette: This palette is very similar to the one in Photoshop. You can create, name, hide, view, lock, delete, reorder and adjust the opacity of layers.

  1. Layer Opacity--In addition to having the option of controlling the opacity of individual objects with the Object Level Opacity, you can also adjust the opacity of each layer.

  2. Color Coded--Each layer created is assigned a default "highlight" color. This determines the color of the selection handles of all objects on a particular layer to help the user identify which layer an object is on. The highlight color of a layer can be changed by dragging a different color swatch from the Colors palette to the layers in the Layers palette.

  3. Layers Preserved--When you apply the illustration back to Photoshop, PhotoGraphics Layersdoes not create a separate layer for each corresponding PhotoGraphics layer. Rather, it applies all the PhotoGraphics layers into a new composite Photoshop layer. However, when you re-open the drawing with PhotoGraphics, you will still have access to all of your PhotoGraphics layers, available in their editable, vector state. It is actually possible to render out each PhotoGraphics layer as a separate Photoshop layer because PhotoGraphics only returns pixels back to Photoshop from the visible PhotoGraphics layers. All you would need to do is hide all other layers but the one you want sent back to Photoshop, and then subsequently, hide the previous layer and show the next layer you want to return back to Photoshop.

Text on a Path: Photoshop users have wanted to be able to create text on a path directly in the program for years. Now you have that ability with PhotoGraphics.

  1. Easy to Use--You just draw your path, click on the path with the Text tool, and start typing. The text can be repositioned anywhere on the path after it has been created by adjusting the Text Anchor Point, and the path itself is completely editable.

  2. Multiple Text Anchor Points--You can also have multiple text blocks on the same path. When you click oText Pathn a path with the Text tool, PhotoGraphics adds a text anchor point on the path where you clicked. To create another anchor point, hold down the (Ctrl) key and click and drag on the original text anchor point. Pressing the Enter key will move the text cursor over to the new anchor point. There is no limit to the number of anchor points you can have on a single path, and each one can be positioned precisely where you want it to be on the path.Save Menu

Saving Drawings: You can re-edit your text and drawings at any time--even after they have been rasterized. Text and drawings created with PhotoGraphics can be saved either as an internal file, meaning with the actual Photoshop document you are working on, or as an external file, meaning saving it out to disk. There are extreme advantages to both options.

  1. Saving with the Image: The last drawing you applied back to Photoshop is always saved automatically for you inside the Photoshop document, whether you actually naEdit Drawingsmed the PhotoGraphics drawing or not. You have the ability to create as many different drawings inside PhotoGraphics as you want and name and save all of them inside the Photoshop document. These files that you embed in the Photoshop document are very small in terms of file size because they are vector, not raster, files. Editing is easy. You just open PhotoGraphics and choose the drawing that you want to edit.

  2. Saving to Disk: The other save option is to save any drawing out to disk as an external file. These external files can be re-opened into PhotoGraphics at any time, by an PhotoGraphics user, Macintosh or Windows. Again, as these vector files are very small, this may be the preferred method of exchanging drawings between users instead of exchanging the entire Photoshop file.

Applying and Editing: Drawings created with PhotoGraphics and saved internally with the Photoshop document even survive file format changes. In other words, you will still have access, and thus, be able to edit your text and objects even after you have converted the Photoshop document to a TIFF, EPS, JPEG, or PDF file. When you are ready to apply a drawing back to Photoshop, you have a variety of options.

  1. Apply Option--adds your current drawing to the active layer you were working on before opening PhotoGraphics.
  2. Apply to New Layer Option--allows you to apply a drawing to its own layer so you can make changes to it if you like.
  3. Erase Layer & Apply Option--allows you to erase the contents of the active layer and replace them with the new version of the drawing.
Personal Comments
Extensis PhotoGraphics 1.0 would be an asset to anyone who has yearned for the capability of creating re-editable basic vector shapes and text on a path directly with Photoshop. It is fun and easy to use. I created the section headings using the program by creating a path with the Bezier took and then placing text on the path. If you have not used the Bezier tool before, it takes some practice to use it creatively. And it took me a while to understand the different save options and the consequences. But the program is a welcome addition to the Adobe Photoshop plug-in list.
System Requirements
Processor: Pentium
Operating System: Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0
Hard Disk Space: 3MB
Programs: Adobe Photoshop 4.0 and up

Graphics: Extensis PhotoGraphics & Adobe Photoshop
Web Page Editor: Symantec Visual Page
Scanner: Hewlett Packard ScanJet 6250C Professional Series